|By ANN ALLEN
CLAYPOOL, Ind. — When Louis Dreyfus Corporation broke ground Thursday for the world’s largest biodiesel production plant, state and local officials hailed the move as answered prayer and a catalyst for change.
“Indiana has made dramatic progress in renewable fuels development over the past year,” said Gov. Mitch Daniels. “We will have grown from one alternative fuels plant to ten by late this year, with more to come.”
“Indiana is no longer a small player but a national leader,” said Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, who serves as Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development and oversees the Indiana Office of Energy and Defense Development. “Not only will future generations reap the rewards of our innovative work in bioenergy, but Hoosiers will also see more jobs and economic benefits in their communities,” she added as she introduced speakers.
The plant, expected to produce up to 250,000 gallons of biodiesel per day, totaling more than 80 million gallons per year, was more than Town Council President Don Miller said he had in mind when he prayed for something to revitalize Claypool, population 335. “I wasn’t looking for the world’s largest anything,” he said, “but this is wonderful. We’ll adjust.”
U.S. Rep. Mark Souder, R-3rd District, drew laughter when he declared he has no aversion to anything French. “The largest employer in my district - Michelin - is French. Now another French company is building the largest plant in the world in my district. You’d better believe I always order French fries.”
On a more serious note, he added, “The world has changed. We are no longer isolated. It’s unbelievable how international we’ve become.”
Construction on the first phase of the project, a 50-million bushel per year soybean processing plant, could begin as soon as May 2. Louis Dreyfus Agricultural Industries, a subsidiary of Paris-based Louis Dreyfus commodities, one of the world’s largest merchandisers of grains and oilseeds and the agribusiness arm of Louis Dreyfus Group, expects to begin processing 2007 crop soybeans in early 2008. The project will employ about 300 during construction and the plant will create 85 jobs, most of them filled with area residents.
Although the company considered sites in Ohio and Michigan, it settled on Claypool, a town located on a county road just east of Indiana 15 in Kosciusko County.
“The vision, support and cooperation of Gov. Daniels, Lt. Gov. Skillman, their staff, the town of Claypool and Kosciusko County were all essential to bringing our soybean processing and biofuels investment to Indiana,” said Ciro Echesortu, head of global oilseeds for Louis Dreyfus Commodities.
“We feel welcome here and are confident Claypool will be a good location to source soybeans and to sell soybean meal to the feed markets in Indiana and the Southeast as well as to sell biodiesel for blending in Indiana and the surrounding Midwestern states.”
The Indiana Economic Development Corpora-tion offered economic development incentives, including up to $95,000 in training grants, $137,500 in infrastructure assistance to the local community and up to $5,295,000 in tax credits based on anticipated capital investment levels. In addition, the Kosciusko County Council has set a May 1 hearing for the company’s request to designate its property an economic revitalization area.
To handle increased truck traffic, the Indiana Department of Transportation will strengthen and widen a railroad bridge and straighten two turns on Indiana 15. Both projects are in the design stage, but INDOT believes the bridge, estimated at $3.5 million, will be completed by 2009 and the straightening, estimated at $800,000, “in several years.” Both require purchasing right of way.
Daniels said the idea for locating such a plant in Indiana originated in farmer Kip Tom’s tractor shed. “We talked about it and wondered how we could make it happen. Now it’s a reality,” he said as he praised Tom, an IEDC board member, for his successful efforts.
“Change brings disruption,” Daniels cautioned. “We must remember that the work being done is to create a better life in years ahead. Change can bring unease. Have courage.”
This farm news was published in the April 26, 2006 issue of Farm World.